No. 481 - The Union Church at Nook

Nook is a farming district approximately 6 kilometres north of Sheffield in northern Tasmania. Originally known as “The Nook”, the name reflected the area’s seclusion and isolation. In 1884 the Hobart Mercury’s “Special Correspondent” visited the area, writing for a series called “Through Tasmania”:


“The Nook is about four miles northerly from Sheffield, and may be reached direct from Latrobe via Tarleton, or by the round-about by Railton and Sheffield. The first settler came here about 15 years ago, and began his toilsome inroad in the forest. It then was a very good day's work to get to Latrobe and back by starting early, and coming back late. There were no roads, and it was heavy work swagging provisions. As for drays they often, particularly in winter, had to be dragged up to the body in the mud….Mr. Henry Bott, perhaps the earliest bona fide settler, is from near Birmingham, and with his sons has freeholds aggregating 385 acres,.. [they are] a tolerably large family, who, by appearances, inherit the parent's industrious habits and kindly disposition. Nothing like fifteen years in the Tasmanian bush to take the nonsense out of people.… Spring Vale is the name of Bott’s property…..Near the main road a new schoolhouse is going up, a good substantial building…There is a goodly number of settlers about The Nook, and children thrown in, the muster will not be far short of 200 souls. Why the place is called The Nook, when so many better names might be adopted, is a puzzle. Spring Vale would be a better”.

The “Special Correspondent” failed to mention Nook’s Union church which was built a few years before the visit. The church opened in February 1879 and the occasion was reported in the Devon Herald:

“The interesting event of opening this place of worship was the occasion of a large gathering on Monday the 3rd. The building is pleasantly situated on a knoll near the Dulverton, Barrington, and Spreyton roads, the site being given by Mr Alexander Hamilton, and is the result of the indefatigable exertion of this gentleman and Mr H. Cooper, who has liberally subscribed in cash towards the cost of the erection…..”

“The church was prettily decorated with ferns, choice flowers, and the appropriate motto “Unity”….The Rev. John Bennett of Latrobe addressed he meeting….setting forth the object of the promotors, which was that the church be opened for the preaching of plain and simple truths of the gospel of Christ….The church was to be undenominational, so that all who were seeking salvation of their souls would be able to meet in unity to do so. He then called upon the Rev. John Cowperthwaite to open the service….”

“The opening of the church is likely to prove a great event in the history of the Nook, especially as this is to be supplemented by a public school immediately… What with the new church and schools and families settling there, the Nook bids fair to remain no longer “a nook” or corner, but to become a thriving and intelligent community…”.

There is no visual record of this church but it was evidently fairly small as may be deduced from a report in 1888 concerning a Wesleyan Methodist anniversary in the Union Church:

“Mr J. Polkinghorne, of Latrobe conducted service morning and afternoon, and was met by crowded congregations, insomuch that the afternoon service was held in the open air, the church being totally inadequate to hold the people assembled”.

The church’s size was most likely the reason why a decision was made to replace it with a larger building. In April 1913 the North West Post reported:

“A working bee was held at Nook on Friday in connection with the erection of a proposed new church which will be available for all denominations. About 16 or 17 persons attended, with six horses… It is intended to tear down the old building and erect a new one, over £100 already being in hand towards the object”.

In June 1914 the North West Post described the opening of the new building:

“June 7, saw the opening of the new Union Church at Nook and notwithstanding the very cold and wet day, large congregations attended. In the afternoon the Rev. W. Cannam preached an able sermon, while in the evening the Rev. H. Saunders preached to a large congregation. The choir rendered the musical portion of the services in a creditable manner. On Wednesday evening a tea, concert, and supper was held, and the church was crowded to the doors….The church is now quite clear of debt”.

While the report provides no description of the church, it closely resembled the Baptist church that was built at Lower Barrington in 1915 as the architects’ plans for the Nook Union church were used by the Baptists at no cost. The photograph of the Union Church accompanying this article is identical the the Baptist church which still stands at Lower Barrington. Services at the Union Church ceased before the 1970’s and the property was later converted into a house. Although the church still exists, significant modification of the structure over the years have substantially altered the building’s appearance.



The second Union (Methodist) Church at Nook - original source has not been established
A real-estate photograph of the church from 2009 (courtesy of Roberts Real Estate)


A real-estate photograph of the church from 2009 (courtesy of Roberts Real Estate)

The location of the Nook region in North West Tasmania - source: placenames.tas.gov.au



Sources:

Devon Herald, Wednesday 5 February 1879, page 3
North West Post, Tuesday 27 November 1888, page 2
North west Post, Monday 28 April 1913, page 3
North West Post, Tuesday 19 August 1913, page 2
North West Post, Monday 15 June 1914, page 2
North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times, Saturday 2 October 1915, page 7


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